Concept

# Sheaf (mathematics)

Summary
In mathematics, a sheaf (: sheaves) is a tool for systematically tracking data (such as sets, abelian groups, rings) attached to the open sets of a topological space and defined locally with regard to them. For example, for each open set, the data could be the ring of continuous functions defined on that open set. Such data is well behaved in that it can be restricted to smaller open sets, and also the data assigned to an open set is equivalent to all collections of compatible data assigned to collections of smaller open sets covering the original open set (intuitively, every piece of data is the sum of its parts). The field of mathematics that studies sheaves is called sheaf theory. Sheaves are understood conceptually as general and abstract objects. Their correct definition is rather technical. They are specifically defined as sheaves of sets or as sheaves of rings, for example, depending on the type of data assigned to the open sets. There are also maps (or morphisms) from one sheaf to another; sheaves (of a specific type, such as sheaves of abelian groups) with their morphisms on a fixed topological space form a . On the other hand, to each continuous map there is associated both a , taking sheaves and their morphisms on the domain to sheaves and morphisms on the codomain, and an operating in the opposite direction. These functors, and certain variants of them, are essential parts of sheaf theory. Due to their general nature and versatility, sheaves have several applications in topology and especially in algebraic and differential geometry. First, geometric structures such as that of a differentiable manifold or a scheme can be expressed in terms of a sheaf of rings on the space. In such contexts, several geometric constructions such as vector bundles or divisors are naturally specified in terms of sheaves. Second, sheaves provide the framework for a very general cohomology theory, which encompasses also the "usual" topological cohomology theories such as singular cohomology.